Despite Earnhardt, Ganassi Merger, Aric Almirola Won't Run Fulltime; Other News

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2009

When Mark Martin announced that he would be leaving then Dale Earnhardt, Inc. to give another go at the championship with Hendrick Motorsports, Aric Almirola believed he'd finally get his full time ride.

Things, though, aren't going according to that plan.

Despite the merger between DEI and Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, the team only has two full time sponsors—Bass Pro Shops, for Martin Truex, Jr. and Target, which will now sponsor Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 41.

Bobby Labonte will be piloting the No. 8, which is unsponsored.

Earnhardt-Ganassi officials have told ESPN that Almirola will race in the season opener at Daytona and a few selected races if full-time sponsorship can't be found.

This would probably happen in the No. 42.

Almirola started in the Busch Series driving in the No. 18 and No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing. After an incident in Milwaukee, in which Almirola subbed, won the pole, and started the race for Denny Hamlin, Gibbs made the decision to pull the young driver out in favor of Hamlin.

Hamlin won the race, even though Almirola received credit for starting the race. Soon afterwards, the now 24-year-old Tampa native asked for his release from the team. His request was granted, and he soon made his way to Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

During his two year Cup career, Almirola has only one top-10, which came at the 2008 Food City 500 in Bristol. He has yet to compete full-time.

In other NASCAR news, Jayski is reporting that Tommy Baldwin's Cup car will be No. 36, but still no word on whether veteran Dave Blaney will drive the car.

Also, all three of NASCAR's major teams have just one week to drug test and submit a list of employees to the sanctioning body, for clearance before the season begins in February. Names of those who do not pass tests do not need to be submitted to NASCAR.

"According to NASCAR policy, any driver who fails a test will be indefinitely suspended."